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Object ID

2021.1.10

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Document

Date

11-22-1940

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Hole punched half page official document from Berlin

Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: This document is addressed to Philip Bouhler from Victor Brack and is marked Secret (Geheim) as it pertains to the Aktion T-4 Nazi euthanasia program. Brack states:

Due to multiple inquiries and inquiries from relatives of the deceased, it is urgently necessary to take credible measures to calm the relatives.

The context of this document is the growing concern over the rising tide of protest emerging from citizens, physicians, and the church over what was happening to family members who fell into the clutches of the T-4 Euthanasia apparatus. While every effort was made to conceal the program from the public (for example, the nondescript name of the central administrative apparatus of Hitler’s euthanasia program on Brack’s letterhead, Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Anstaltspflege, “Charitable Foundation for Institutional Care”, clearly camouflaging its true purpose), Hitler felt obligated to suspend the euthanasia program in late August, 1941. However, Hitler never fully intended to stop the program: It would continue under the fog of war.

Hitler’s belief in a racially pure Aryan nation required purging the threat of “worthless” individuals, the so-called “life unworthy of life” (“lebensunwertes Leben”), whose mental, emotional, or physical limitations could jeopardize Germany’s much vaunted racial superiority or create a financial burden for the state. Politicizing and implementing “racial hygiene” began early in Hitler’s administration with the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases, which led to the sterilization of the disabled. The category of disability and hence the potential targets for sterilization would soon prove to be quite elastic and ensnare manic-depressives and schizophrenics, epileptics, the blind, those with physical deformities, the developmentally disabled, and alcoholics. Hitler’s success in calibrating his policies around public reception, and a lack of resistance on the part of the medical community, led to further policy drift, and Nazis soon began embracing the murder of the disabled. Hitler had appointed Reich Leader Philip Buhler as well as his personal physician Karl Brandt to oversee the T-4 program, to ensure that it ran smoothly and in accordance with a plan to “enlarge the authority” of selected physicians to declare patients incurable based on certain criteria and thus grant them what he referred to as a “mercy death”. The daily implementation of this program would fall to Viktor Brack and his deputy Walter Blankenberg. Medical personnel would “certify” whether a child was incapable of working due to mental, emotional, or physical illness. If so, the child would be marked for death. These criteria would be in time extended to both Jewish children in mental hospitals and to adults. The outcome of this certification process was never in doubt: the patients selected to die were transported to one of six euthanasia centers in Germany and Austria: the doctors, nurses, and other specialists who worked at these centers employed different methods of murder. Starvation and lethal injection were used at first, but eventually the method of choice became gassing with carbon monoxide in chambers simulating showers.

Hitler’s Aktion T-4 euthanasia program would be a proving ground as the Nazis lurched toward genocide and the Final Solution. Indeed, Nazi racial ideology -undergirded by a popular if controversial eugenics movement- created theoretical justification for purging the nation of elements that could threaten it. But for theory to be converted into practice two essential ingredients were necessary: The first was the enhanced authority granted to physicians and their active participation -along with other medical personnel -in the administrative apparatus of state-sponsored murder in direct contravention to their oath to save lives and do no purposeful harm

The second relates to control of information and its sources. Aktion T-4 was immersed in an Orwellian totalitarian universe of deceit and obfuscation, dissembling and euphemism, in which euthanasia no longer referred to end oof life decisions made to relieve unendurable suffering, decisions made either voluntarily or with family assistance; rather, it was reshaped -in Hitler’s parlance-as “granting a mercy death”. This would presumably give some measure of credibility to the “data collection” and certification protocols of the medical personnel. The ensuing harvesting of body parts (e.g., gold teeth), and the use of crematoria for disposing of bodies-also an integral part of the program-would eventually be institutionalized in the genocide against the Jews.

Dimensions

8 1/4 x 6"

Keywords

Aktion T-4 Euthanasia Program, Philip Bouhler, Viktor Brack, Karl Brandt, Sterilization

Subcollection

Euthenasia

Official Document to Philip Brouhler from Dr. Viktor Brack on the Aktion T-4 Euthanasia Program

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